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China's manufacturing growth quickens despite export headwind

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BEIJING, May 1 (Xinhua) -- China's manufacturing growth continued to rise in April, fresh evidence of better performance in the manufacturing sector, official data showed on Thursday.

The purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the manufacturing sector rose to 50.4 last month, up from 50.3 in March, according to a statement jointly released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.

This is the second consecutive monthly uptick of the widely watched data. The index began to climb in March after three months of declines.

A reading below 50 indicates contraction, while above 50 signals expansion.

"The official NBS PMI ticked up to 50.4 in April from 50.3 in March, but is slightly shy of the 50.5 expected by markets," Lu Ting, chief China economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in a research note.

On breakdown, the sub-index for new orders gained 0.6 in April from the previous month to 51.2, even as new export orders fell to 49.1 in April from 50.1 in March, according to the statement.

The new orders sub-index gained last month on the back of a pickup in domestic orders "due perhaps to some announcements of growth supportive measures from mid-March," Lu noted.

The sub-index for production dipped 0.2 in April from the prior month to 52.5. The sub-index for employment remained flat at 48.3, noted the statement.

The latest PMI index shows that China's market demand is improving, but the momentum of the recovery is not strong, said Zhao Qinghe, a senior analyst with the NBS.

The breakdown suggests domestic demand could improve in the second quarter, said Lu, adding that "we are comfortable with our second quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast at 7.5 percent year on year."

GDP expanded at 7.4 percent in the first quarter, as a slower property investment and exports weighed on broader economic growth during the period.

Since mid-March, the government has introduced measures to support the economy and job creation, including cutting the reserve requirement ratio for some rural financial institutions and extending a preferential tax policy for the unemployed, new college graduates, the disabled and others, to start their own businesses.

In its latest effort , the State Council, China's Cabinet, on Wednesday promised to support stable growth of foreign trade and improve the foreign trade structure.

Exports slumped 6.6 percent to 170.11 billion U.S. dollars in March. The recent economic slowdown of some emerging economies added pressure to exports, and China needs to buttress the manufacturing sector recovery by deepening reforms and improving the industrial structure, said Zhao.

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